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New West families have one more chance to opt out of classrooms

An information session is coming Dec. 3 for parents considering making the switch to online learning in the new year
online learning, stock photo
New West families have one more window to decide to opt in to online learning. An information session is coming Dec. 3.

New Westminster families will have one more chance to opt in to online learning for the second half of the school year.

The school district is opening up registration in December for families who want to transfer their children into the kindergarten-to-Grade-8 online program starting after the winter break.

Families will get a letter from superintendent Karim Hachlaf next week (Dec. 1) outlining the details, and a virtual information session will be held on Dec. 3.

Hachlaf said he hopes families will give the issue “careful consideration” before moving their children out of face-to-face classroom learning.

He acknowledged the anxiety among families in light of rising COVID-19 case counts but said schools are still safe for children.

“The risk in the school community is, in fact, four times lower than the community at large,” he told trustees during an update at the Nov. 24 school board meeting. “This is really reinforcing what we’ve heard from the provincial health office. Despite the alarming trend on the increase of daily COVID cases, the transmission rate at our schools across the province remains still quite low.”

Hachlaf said that, as of Nov. 20, provincial stats show 549 exposures in B.C. schools, but still only 12 in-school transmissions. Those transmissions, he said, were found to have occurred largely because of a “breakdown of protocols.”

“That particular stat indicates our protocols are in fact working effectively, which is really good news, to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” he said.

Hachlaf said the school district’s health and safety plans remain intact and have not changed in the wake of the latest provincial health orders. Locally, he said, the New West district has sent out 16 early notification letters about COVID-19 exposures (as of Nov. 24) but has not yet had to issue any self-isolation orders.

“Schools remain safe places to be,” he said. “They’re critical for that learning to take place, especially in the early years, but we also respect a family’s decision to do what they feel is best for the safety of their child.”

He said the virtual information session set for Thursday, Dec. 3 will help ensure families have all the information they need to make an “informed decision” about online learning.

For those who opt in, registration will be available from Dec. 7 to 11, after which time the district will review the applications and start offering spaces. Hachlaf cautioned capacity is limited, so if there are too many registrants, the district may opt for a lottery system to hand out spots.

Orientation and online class assignments would then happen between Jan. 4 and 8.

Families can expect a detailed letter from Hachlaf Dec. 1, and information will also then be posted on the school district’s website.